By Ian M. Marlow
November 3, 2014
A computer network audit examines and outlines your current IT structure, expenditures and the services you are using at that moment. However, there are alternatives on the market that your company might be missing out on to improve your computing infrastructure. With technology changing faster at fiber optic speed, many organizations discover they are spending more but getting less in terms of service. A thorough system evaluation will provide insight into what services or hardware your company could be using instead that are more efficient and profitable.
In just the last two years, the ways in which network services can be provided have changed dramatically (to the benefit of the organization), so now is a great time to do a network evaluation. Here are 10 points to check and issues to examine.
- Global accessibility. Today’s workforce needs to access your network remotely, but pulling files off the server and then sending them back over the Internet can be slow. What’s more, transmitting files over a cellular network via mobile devices will result in huge data bills. With virtual desktops and offline file folder synching, your road warriors can operate as fast as they would in the office, on any device; both public and private clouds give you global accessibility at much greater cost efficiency.
- Business continuity. No company can afford to have its network down for extended periods of time; organizations must be able to operate even if the office is without power. Cloud computing enables employees to do their jobs and avoid or reduce significant downtime. Offsite backup is no longer acceptable as business continuity. Can your network meet the challenge?
- Supreme mobility. Does your network allow for maximal portability? Is your workforce set up with mobile devices and Chromebooks? These relatively inexpensive laptops allow access to your company’s public or private cloud with very little maintenance, keep employees in touch via live webchat, and more. All they need is a Wi-Fi connection. We recommend that clients stockpile these to be ready for a major power outage or system failure.
- Protect your intellectual property. A network evaluation can show what information your employees are taking from you and how (via USB drives, email, 3rd party/cloud storage providers). If this activity is unauthorized, this is theft.
- Virus infection and protection. If your computing network is not properly protected, one user account or work station that gets a virus can potentially infect your entire network. There are protocols and software you can implement to avoid this.
- Cost assessment. Get a handle on your overhead costs by evaluating the cost of your internal hardware, software and maintenance expenses compared to the overall cost of moving your organization’s computing to the cloud and subscription-based SaaS (software as a service). We recommend that companies spend 2-3 percent of gross revenue on IT today.
- WAN design. Companies with multiple locations are typically connected via a WAN (wide area network). If not properly designed, if one location goes off line, they all do. Auditing your WAN can reveal upgrade opportunities to significantly limit this problem.
- Firewall protocols. There are new firewall protocols available that create a secure point-to-point connection that is equally as secure as what the telecom providers offer, for less money. Data can be encrypted end-to-end across a high-quality connection for maximal security.
- Network breaches and intrusion detection. If you’ve never had an IT services provider try to hack into your network, your organization may be at risk. An intrusive network audit/penetration test looks for holes that could lead to a security breach, enabling your company to remediate the issue right away.
- Understand network utilization requirements. By utilizing passive non-intrusive agents an IT services provider can measure, over a number of days or weeks, how much processing power and memory is used in order to service your user base. This information dictates what you will pay for cloud storage and reveals whether or not there is sufficient processing power and memory or if the system is being taxed. This information is crucial for sizing your organization’s cloud; if your cloud provider does not allocate enough virtual and physical memory for your needs, your computing will be slow, your users will be very unhappy and ultimately try to work around the system, causing holes in security.
A comprehensive network audit keeps businesses of all sizes competitive and running more efficiently. The evaluation will uncover system deficiencies or outdated configurations, servers or software. This information provides excellent action items that enable companies to upgrade their computing infrastructure, improve workforce mobility, and maintain tighter controls over data security, an element that no company can afford to overlook.